Your brakes help you slow down and stop your vehicle, and brake pads are an important part of the system. Over time, brake pads wear out and eventually need replacing. Fortunately, you can often get the job done yourself with the right tools and materials. This guide on how to change brake pads will walk you through the process.
Determine If Your Brake Pads Need Changing
Knowing how your braking system works can make installing new brake pads simpler. On a car with disc brakes, round discs called rotors and brake pads form the brakes. The pads rest along the sides of the rotors. A brake caliper grips the rotor and the pad and connects the brake to the rest of the braking system.
The brakes sit behind the wheel, and the rotors spin when they do. When you step on the brake pedal, a brake booster behind it changes the pressure in a master cylinder. The pressure change causes brake oil to move through the brake line.
At the other end of the brake line is a piston. The fluid pushes on it, moving the pads against the rotor. Pads create friction and reduce the speed of the rotors. As the rotors slow down and stop spinning, so do the wheels.
Brake pads typically need to be changed every 25,000 to 75,000 miles, with 50,000 miles being the average.
When brake pads begin to break down, you may hear squealing, squeaking and grinding noises. If your car pulls to one side more than the other when you tap the brakes, the pads may be going bad. When you press the pedal, a bouncing sensation may also mean it’s time to replace the brake pads.
Prepare Your Vehicle
Before changing the brake pads, prepare your vehicle. First, loosen the lug nuts on the tire with a tire iron , but don’t remove them altogether.
Slide a floor jack beneath your car. Your owner’s manual will provide specific instructions about where to place the jack.
Pump the handle to raise your vehicle, then slip a jack stand underneath. Position the stand to support the weight of your vehicle, and then remove the jack.
Safety Tip: Because floor jacks don’t provide enough support on their own, use jack stands for extra stability. Working on a car positioned only on a jack could result in injury.
Remove the Lug Nuts and Caliper Bolts
Now, it’s time to get at the brakes. With your tire iron, loosen the lug nuts the rest of the way. Once they’re off, set them aside in a safe place, and then take off the tire. At this point, you should be able to see the metal brake caliper assembly and the round rotor.
Find the bolts on the interior side of the caliper assembly. Use a ratchet and socket set to remove them.
Finally, slip off the caliper assembly, keeping the brake line connected. Rest the caliper on top of the rotor while you work.
Remove the Old Brake Pads
Remove the old brake pads from both sides of the rotor. Pay attention to their position to make putting the new pads in place easier.
Check to see if the clips that hold them in place are damaged. If they are, use the clips that come with your new brake pads or seek other replacements before installing them.
Prepare and Install the New Brake Pads
Get your new brake pads ready to assemble. Apply brake grease to the metal plates on the backs of your new brake pads. A dime-sized amount is enough.
Install the new brake pads. They should be placed in the same position as the old ones. Refer to your owner’s manual as needed to determine the correct placement.
Tip: Some brake pads need to be cleaned before installation. Use the appropriate brake cleaner or fluid as outlined by the manufacturer.
Adjust the Caliper Assembly
Adjust the caliper assembly to fit your new brake pads. To do so, put one of the old brake pads inside the caliper assembly. Position it against the circular piston and use a brake tool to tighten it against the old pad. Continue tightening until it creates a secure, firm fit. This step should allow the caliper assembly to fit over your newly installed brake pads.
Put the caliper assembly back in place and tighten the bolts using your hands. Use the socket wrench to finish the job.
Tip: Brake tools are specialty tools for brake installation and maintenance. Manufacturers typically make them for specific types of brakes. Your owner’s manual should tell you which type of brake tool you need.
Re-Install the Tires and Lower the Car
With the brake pads changed, you can now finish up on this side. Put your tire back on, tightening the lug nuts by hand. Slide the jack back in and lift the car until you can easily remove the jack stand. Lower the car back to the ground and remove the jack.
Use the tire iron to secure the lug nuts before operating your vehicle. Repeat the above steps to replace the pads on the other brakes as needed.
Have your mechanic check your brake pads regularly as part of your routine inspection. If you prefer to do your own vehicle check-ups, look at your brake pads and see if they look worn. Brake pads help keep your vehicle safe, so if you spot signs of significant wear, replace them as soon as possible.